Rounding Third entertainment center is `labor of love'

Owner of Elkridge facility counts on fun, not profit

May 01, 2000|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

When it comes to making money off his Elkridge family entertainment center, Jim Harris isn't exactly batting a thousand.

"I have never taken a paycheck out of this company -- ever," he said.

Harris said that in the company's best year, it lost $7,000. But that's fine with him. Harris, who opened Rounding Third Family Entertainment Center about eight years ago, said he's not in it for the money.

"This was like a labor of love," he said.

Harris got into the baseball business after 12 years as a Little League coach, when he would take his players to batting cages. Unhappy with the cages he was using, Harris decided to start his own business.

It began in a 12,000-square-foot Elkridge building in 1993, as batting cages and a place to buy baseball cards or take batting lessons. Though it isn't turning a profit, the company has since expanded -- moving in 1998 to a bigger building and offering more attractions.

"This is evolution," he said. "I mean, this is bigger than I even thought it was going to be, especially from a money standpoint."

Harris said opening the new entertainment center, which sits in a 24,000-square-foot building on 4.5 acres, cost about $2.4 million: $1.4 million for the land, $400,000 for the miniature golf course, $400,000 for the go-cart track, plus the cost of arcade games and other equipment.

About 70 arcade games beep, buzz and zap in Rounding Third. Beside the arcade is an indoor basketball court that doubles as a hitting and throwing area, a pitching tunnel and six batting cages.

On a recent evening, Ron Kuhns stood outside the cages as his daughter, a junior varsity softball player, had a batting lesson.

"Pretty much her whole softball team comes here," Kuhns said.

Rounding Third, which has 15 full-time employees and 20 to 25 part-time employees, also sells baseball cards, mitts and bats, plays host to birthday parties and runs mini-baseball camps on weekends. It also has a miniature golf course and a 900-foot go-cart course, which is scheduled to be open by the end of next month.

From the back room, Rounding Third Sportswear and Graphics Inc. embroiders and silk-screens hats, shirts and jackets. That business, which began in 1997 and has about 100 clients, averages $300,000 a year in sales, Harris said.

Harris keeps the family entertainment business alive through his success in other endeavors.

A former banker, Harris left his job as a vice president MBNA America Bank about nine years ago to take over a family insulation installing business, Arctic Insulation Inc.

From that came Potomac Abatement Inc., an asbestos removal company that Harris and a partner started in 1989. Then in 1995, Harris and a partner opened Arctic Fireproofing Inc., which fireproofs beams of new buildings. And three years later, Harris and two partners opened Ameriwaste LLC, which does demolition and cleans debris from construction sites.

"Everything that happened was evolutionary," he said.

In the midst of his other business transactions, Harris bought Rounding Third in Elkridge in 1993. He was going to close the business when his lease ran out in 1998, but decided instead to invest in a new building nearby and expand the business from sports to family entertainment, with his nephew as a partner.

Last year, Harris said, he lost $23,000 in Rounding Third. But since he's buying the building, Harris is gaining equity and banking on the business taking off.

"If I break even in this starting this year or next year," Harris said, "I've won."

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